With the increased competition in a generally stagnant European market, food processors are demanding more automation, less maintenance and easier cleaning production machines as a means of cuttingcosts and gaining efficiency.
Ishida, which made the various components in the line and installed it at the company's plant in Thuringia says it covers the entire product weighing and packing process.
The line does tray denesting, weighing, filling, check weighing, tray sealing, metal detection, cardboard sleeving and the automatic packing into cases of the frozen foods, ready to ship to retailclients.
The new line currently produces six varieties of frozen meat and vegetarian ready meals. It's output is 45 trays per minute. Product changeovers can be done in less than ten minutes. The lineoperates in a plant environment of -8°C. Product mixes are packed in 300g and 450g trays.
Elevators convey four different types of frozen products to a 24 head Ishida multihead weigher. The weigher then selects product from a combination of hoppers that comes closest to the targetweight for each ingredient. The meal is then placed in the tray.
A second 10-head multihead weigher adds sauces consisting of small balls of butter. As the proportion of the meal taken up by these balls is also defined in terms of weight, the entire product mixconsists of five weighed components.
Depending on the recipe, fresh sauces can also be added via separate sauce dispensers.
Trays are then fed beneath the weighers from an Ishida tray denester and filled with the balls via a filling system and twin sauce dispenser. The filled trays are then conveyed to be weighed again.A checkweigher.ensures that any over- or underweight trays are identified and automatically rejected prior to sealing.
Rejected trays can be reused and no top seal film is wasted, Ishida stated in a press release. The trays that pass the test go on to a traysealer, which puts a protective top seal on each tray.
The sealed trays then pass through a metal detector and then a sleeving machine. Finally, the packs are fed to an packing system, which automatically takes the ready meal trays in sets of threefrom the conveyor belt and places them into pre-erected cardboard cases.
Frenzel is the third-largest frozen food supplier in the German market.
Frenzel said it chose Ishida to put up the new line after it used an Ishida multihead weigher for three years without repairs being needed.